One of the most prized and interesting ecogarden community plants is this stinging nettle. It lives in a container, which is especially important for this very vigorous and prolific beauty. It spreads via underground root-shoots and if allowed to it would fill vast areas.
Of course the most well-known property of stinging nettle is how just-plain-painful it can be to touch it the wrong way. It’s really that bad… those thousands of little needles are like tiny syringes, instantly injecting a whole cocktail of nasty chemicals designed to cause maximum annoyance under the skin of any mammal.
Nettles are actually edible and full of protein, vitamins, and other goodness. Dried or cooked, the needles lose their sting. It makes a good tea.
There are a bunch of alleged remedies for nettle stings, including the juices of various herbs. I find that if I can get to the hose within a few seconds, a very hard spray of water directly onto the stung area for at least 30 seconds does a great job of flushing the nasty chemicals from the injection point. It still stings, but the hurt goes away a lot faster.
When visitors come to the ecogarden, I try to remember to warn them about the dangerous “nettle zone” of the upstairs deck. Also present in this happy container: a dozen or more fat sunchoke tubers (unharvested as yet, partly because of the nettles in the way). In the above photo you can see their sprouts just coming up – there’s one down at the front, just to the right of the gray rock. There are also smaller herbs including chickweed, strawberry, fringed willow-herb, sorrel, Santa Barbara daisy, and more.
See what this container ecogarden looks like by the middle of May, when the nettles are blooming.
Read more about stinging nettle in this fascinating Wikipedia article